The classic lines of the Winchester 94 are clear in the updated and stronger Mossberg Model 464. It has some features from the Marlin 336 as well, including a round bolt and a smoother action than the 94.
The Mossberg 464 is made in America by Americans. See our exclusive pictures from the Mossberg factory.
Until the Hornady LeverEvolution ammo was released in 2007 the 30-30 with a tubular magazine was stranded in the past, forced to use flat or round pointed bullets for safety. NOTE: Make sure the lever is closed when you cartridges into the tubular magazine. Otherwise it is difficult and the feed ramp is not able to compress all the way to make room.
Ben and I shot hundreds of Hornady LeverEvolution rounds and handloads through this 464 with zero failures. It is really a well made high quality next generation 30-30.
Shooting a cold gun, the Mossberg 464 is capable of the same level of accuracy as the most accurate out of the box bolt rifles in its class. This 1″ group was standard for both the factory Hornady LeverEvolution and handloads using Hodgdon powder with the same Hornady bullets.
The 464 is drilled and tapped for the Weaver #403 base and the holes are filled with these filler screws when you get it. We had to swap that front base around for the proper spacing and eye relief on a standard size riflescope and the top port is partially covered, but it didn’t hamper proper ejection of fired cases.
The best sights for the Mossberg 464 are made by Kwik-Site, but make sure you call them about the proper screws. Even the regular mounts came with incorrect screws for this gun.
The front hole on the 464 is very shallow because it is only as thick as the steel sleeve over the barrel. The regular Kwik-Site mounts fit fine, but the See-Thru mounts have a recessed countersunk screw hole so they need very short screws.
The See-Thru mounts with a Leupold 4-12. This is the perfect New England combination working the powerlines where you might get a 300 yard shot and you more likely will get a 50 yard shot, and either of them might be a 5 second or less opportunity.
The rear notch and front blade of the Mossberg 464 fit nicely under the scope with the Kwik-Site See-Thru rings.
The lever safety on the 464 will take some getting used to. You have to put your hand deeply into the lever for it to naturally compress the safety, but once you are used to it, you are used to it.
Casual handloads using 35.5 grains of Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder produced slightly better velocity than the factory ammo and the same accuracy.
When most people think of the classic deer rifle, they think of the lever action 30-30. Very few avid gunners don’t have one, yet this is a gun that is not the most powerful, not the most accurate, not the most quick shooting, and not the most reliable. For all the new gun owners, shooters and hunters that have come into the gun world over the last few years, you just have to re-ask the question, “why on earth would I ever want a lever action 30-30?” Is it just sentimental value in an old time cartridge that keeps the 30-30 going, or is there something there?
Guns are different from most things except maybe cars and guitars in that they have an “aura” about them. You won’t often see a rich businessman driving a Honda CRX “tuner” to the office, and you certainly shouldn’t play Ozzy songs on a Fender Telecaster, not that you can’t. Likewise, a lot of people feel weird stomping around the woods with an AR-15. It isn’t that the AR isn’t capable of taking a deer, a hog, or a coyote. It just doesn’t feel right.
The same thing goes for a high-powered bolt gun. In the thick woods of New England, Pennsylvania and other popular hunting grounds, you can feel like you are overdoing it with a high powered rifle. Most shots are under 100 yards and you don’t need all that power for a deer. For many hunters, a lever action 30-30 is “just right,” and it makes you feel like rough and tumble cowboy, which is always cool for a gun guy.
That is why there are literally millions of 30-30s out there hunting this season, and one that has become very popular is the Mossberg 464. It is made in America by Americans, and we found it to be as accurate as most bolt guns for the first five shots in a cold gun. The point of balance on the 464 is right in the middle of the receiver, exactly where you want it to be for walking around the woods for hours, and right in the middle of a mounted normal length rifle scope, so it retains the balance. If you look at the 464, it looks like a Winchester Model 94, the most classic of all leverguns. But some of the features inside are much more like the Marlin 336, which is the other US made 30-30 still available today. The 464 is smoother than the 94, yet feels more like one than it does the Marlin.
Hornady revolutionized the 30-30 in 2007 with the introduction of their LeverEvolution ammunition. Prior to this, all traditional leverguns with tubular magazines had to use flat pointed bullets. Otherwise the tip of the bullet in the magazine would impact the primer of the round in front of it, setting it off inside the magazine and blowing a hole out of the side of your gun. LeverEvolution utilizes an aerodynamic spitzer type bullet with a polymer tip, so that they don’t set off the primer. They actually work, and since the more than 4 years that have passed since their introduction, the LeverEvolution ammo has taken over the market for 30-30 deer rifles.
If you are wondering why it matters so much to have an aerodynamic bullet design, think about throwing a tight spiral on the football shaped not like a football, but like a rectangular block. Sure, you could probably get it to spin, but it won’t have the natural axis that you find with the football shape. It also won’t go as far because it doesn’t cut as well through the air to reach its target. The same thing goes for bullets. Bullets have what is called a “Ballistic Coefficient,” or BC, and no I won’t bore you with the mechanics and the physics involved. They don’t matter because all of the ammo companies tell you what the measured BC for a given bullet is. The higher the BC number, the more efficiently the bullet travels through air, and the greater rotating force it has to keep it from developing a wabble. Heavier bullets have a higher BC because of their momentum, and aerodynamic bullets have a higher BC because they cut through the air better and have more of a natural axis.
Traditional 30-30 bullets are in the 150 grain range and have a BC of .186 or so. In comparison, the Hornady 160gr. FTX made for LeverEvolution has a BC of .330, and the new 140gr. MonoFlex has a BC of .277. That equates to much more retained velocity downrange, which means more overall retained energy, which means more thump downrange. The result is a bullet in the 30-30 that is more capable of accuracy and ballistics rivaling bolt guns. A better BC means better performance, and the plastic tipped LeverEvolution was a true rEvolution in leverguns.
Shooting the Mossberg 464
Mossberg introduced their Model 464 in 2008 to take advantage of the new capabilities of the Hornady LeverEvolution ammo, and as above, it is one of only two 30-30 leverguns left in the market, the other being the Marlin 336. Mossberg went for the reliability of the 94, with smoother function and strength of the Marlin. We shot this Mossberg 464 you see here in the pictures several hundred times, using both factory Hornady LeverEvolution and handloads , using Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder and the two Hornady bullets. After you get used to the way the gun works, I don’t believe you will ever experience a failure to fire. We didn’t.
Getting used to the gun does take a little patience. This is not a gun you want to shoot three times to sight it in then head out to the woods. It has a thumb safety located on the tang that you have to get used to flicking off, but thankfully it is smooth and easy both ways, and it doesn’t automatically engage when you cycle the lever. The thumb safety is backed up by a separate trigger safety connected to the lever. You have to have your hand in the lever loop compressing it in order to fire. At first this might seem a little frustrating, but once you learn to get a deep grip on the gun when you are ready to fire, it becomes second nature.
This safety advantage of what many consider the ultimate “brush gun” outweighs the usability quirk to me. Once you try it you will most likely feel the same way. How many times have you found your rifle action caught up in branch twigs as you dig your way into a particularly thick piece of woodland? This backup safety makes sure you have a good firing grip on the gun before it allows the gun to fire. A branch caught in your trigger guard won’t cause an accidental discharge if you forget to engage, or elect to not engage the tang safety.
Accuracy on lever guns is always tricky. The barrel band that holds on the wooden forearm doesn’t heat up and expand as quickly as the barrel, so it acts as a fulcrum when the barrel heats up. This can throw accuracy off by a lot in sustained fire as the barrel bends around the barrel band. But you don’t carry a levergun for sustained fire, or at least nobody has since the late 1800s. Generally you will be shooting a cold gun less than 5 times in a hunting situation and most ranch duties, so this is what we could consider a relevant accuracy test.
The Mossberg 464, cold, shoots into about an inch at 100 yards, translating to about 1 Minute of Angle, or MOA. I don’t know if this would prove out with the old blunt 30-30 bullets, but with Hornady LeverEvolution, whenever we let the gun cool off, the 1″ group would repeat itself. Ben Becker, our resident US Army Sniper, shot the 464 a great deal and was amazed that it matched some of the best bolt guns on the market. Once it heats up all bets are off, like any lever gun with a barrel band, but for those first crucial five shots the gun is right there where it needs to be to never let you down.
Handloads proved out the same way. Granted, we used the same Hornady 140gr. MonoFlex and 160gr. FTX that is in the LeverEvolution ammo, and we did use Hodgdon’s LeverEvolution powder, so we knew they wouldn’t be far off, but the handloads actually produced better velocity than the Hornady ammo, and the accuracy results were the same. Even though we are a Hornady shop and it may seem impartial, if you have something that works why deviate from it? Nobody cared about the fate of the levergun when Hornady introduced Lever Evolution, and it remains the only ammo worth considering for your levergun today.
The biggest issue I had with this gun was the scope mounts so I will include it to save you a potential headache. I unfortunately didn’t Google around before being told at Bass Pro that there was no mount listed for the Mossberg 464. On returning home I researched, and it is the Weaver #403 that fits this gun. You have to mount them both forward to get the proper eye relief on the scope, but they work. Better are the Kwik-Site mounts I found after buying the Weavers, and Kwik-Site even makes a see-thru mount for the 464. See-thru mounts allow you to see your open sights under the scope, so you can mount a 4 power or higher fixed power scope for long shots and use the open sights for anything under 50 yards or so. See-thru mounts are the ultimate brush gun companions.
Unfortunately, after ordering from Kwik-Site directly on the website, I ended up with the wrong screws in my package, but they do answer their phone, so if you order from them call in advance and make sure you get the right length screws for the 464. The front holes on the 464 are tapped into the steel over the back of the barrel and they are fairly shallow. As of this writing I haven’t gotten the correct screws for the see-thru mounts, but the regular mounts that are actually made for this gun are successfully mounted with the correct screws.
I should mention that the open sights on the Mossberg 464 are more than adequate for most shots in thick woods. The buckhorn rear is functional and the front blade is fitted with a brass bead that picks up very nicely. I prefer an optic on the gun, and if you want to take advantage of the 300 yard range of the LeverEvolution technology, don’t skimp on the scope.
The published velocities for all Hornady rifle ammo use a 24″ barrel. The Mossberg 464 has an 18″ barrel, and this makes you lose some velocity because some of the powder burns outside the barrel. Our actual measurement of velocity using the 160gr. LeverEvolution averaged 2270fps., close to the 2400fps. published. The 140gr. LeverEvolution produced 2380fps. and the published velocity is 2465fps. As measured, the 160gr. produces 1831 foot/pounds and the 140gr. produces 1756 foot/pounds of energy at the muzzle. That is equivalent to almost twice the punch of a .44 Magnum and more than 2/3rds the energy of a .30-06.
Our handloads were measured at 35.5 grains of Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder for both Hornady bullets. This gave us a little better results. The 160gr. FTX averaged 2375fps. and the 140gr. MonoFlex averaged 2475 as measured on our Pact Pro Chronograph. This may be an optimized load, and it is what is printed on the can of powder for the 160gr. FTX. Even though the 140gr. bullet was not listed on the can because it is new, we also used the 35.5gr. for it as well. PLEASE NOTE: We do not give reloading advice and you are responsible for your own loads.
When you look at the ballistic effects of a significantly higher BC, the downrange results tell an interesting story and are actually really amazing. We have yet to actually put a chronograph downrange to test these velocities (one of these days), but we have dialed scopes in correctly going from 100 to 300 yards and the BC has proven out. This means that when we dialed a scope in based on the ballistic calculator using the higher BC of the bullets, the bullets hit where they were should according to the numbers, indicating that the BC calculations from Hornady are valid.
If you look at this table, I used a constant velocity of 2400 fps. on all the bullets to keep it simple. All three bullets are only slightly off 2400fps. regardless. The calculations for the downrange ballistics are the two LeverEvolution bullets and the traditional Hornady 150gr. RN that has been popular in most 30-30 ammo over the years.
|Name||Picture||Muzzle Velocity||Energy at 100 yards||200 yards||300 yards|
|Hornady 140gr. MonoFlex||2400fps.||1370 ft/lbs.||1031 ft/lbs.||768 ft/lbs.|
|Hornady 150gr. RN||2400fps.||1280 ft/lbs.||827 ft/lbs.||536 ft/lbs.|
|Hornady 160gr. FTX||2400fps.||1635 ft/lbs.||1294 ft/lbs.||1012 ft/lbs.|
As you can see, at 200 yards the flat-nosed 150gr. bullet has fallen in energy to about a .44 Magnum, whereas the 140gr. and especially the 160gr. have retained much more of their energy. By 300 yards both of the LeverEvolution bullets still have plenty on them, whereas the 150gr. has dropped to roughly a .357 Magnum, still capable of taking a deer or a hog with the right shot placement, but at that distance shot placement can be touch and go. Most shooters in the field will want as much advantage as they can get, if they are willing to even take such a shot with a 30-30.
The Handiest Gun in the World?
This week we also took a look at the Ruger Gunsite Scout, based on an idea from shooting legend Jeff Cooper. This design was supposedly based on the methodology of the original Winchester Model 94, often called the handiest gun ever made. This Mossberg 464 is a beefed up version of that gun, incorporating some of the advantages of the Marlin version as well. As a truck gun, as a brush gun for deer, hogs and coyotes, as a ranch gun for something to keep on your golf cart or ATV, the Mossberg 464 is extremely handy. It isn’t the best at anything, but it is pretty good at everything. And with Hornady LeverEvolution ammo and bullets, what was once a sacrifice in ballistics and accuracy is no longer a sacrifice. The 30-30 isn’t just a sentimental old caliber people love. It has evolved, and to many it is “just right.” The Mossberg 464 has also evolved the traditional 30-30 levergun, taking the best features and reliability from previous designs, and it is a gun made in America by Americans that you’ll be proud to own.